Strictly Embargoed for release until 00:01 18th October 2010


New research shows that even those you would most expect to ‘be’ The Big Society are confused and cynical about the initiative and are finding it hard to volunteer.

TimeBank, the national volunteering charity, surveyed over 1,500 people who want to volunteer or who are volunteering already and asked them what they thought of The Big Society and what was needed to make it work.

•    89% like one or more of The Big Society plans

•    But 70% remain confused or cynical

•    73% want volunteering to be made easier

•    Employers giving staff time off to volunteer is the top thing they think will encourage more volunteering

•    Training community organisers came top of the list of Big Society plans that appealed the most

•    But out of those less than half want to be trained as a community organiser themselves

Already those people who are keen on volunteering and making the Big Society a success are saying it’s too difficult. As the spending review fast approaches and more cuts to the sector expected , volunteers are calling on employers to support them more.

TimeBank Chief Executive, Helen Walker says,

“The people most likely to ‘be’ The Big Society have told us that they find it hard to volunteer. They also told us that the top thing that would encourage people to volunteer is support from their employer. So if The Big Society’s going to work at a time when the voluntary sector is under threat, we are urging the private sector to step in and support their staff to volunteer.

The business benefits will outweigh the costs since volunteering develops skills, boosts job satisfaction and also raises a company’s profile within the local community.”

TimeBank works with public and private sector organisations to make it easy for staff to volunteer by running employee volunteering schemes and one-off team challenges.

Nicola Stopps, Head of Corporate Responsibility, T-Mobile (UK) says,

“We’ve given our staff the chance to take an active part in tackling local issues that they care about and seen the real difference it’s made to them, the company and the community. Employee volunteering really is a win-win for employers and employees alike. It’s been a great way to get people volunteering who wouldn’t normally have the time to do it and we’ve found it gives staff a way to develop personally and professionally too.”

Juanita is self-employed and volunteers as part of a local initiative which collects furniture to assist with the housing of homeless families. She says,

“I think there are lots of people out there who want to volunteer but can’t afford to because of not being able to take time off work. Which is why I think it’s up to the employer to make it easier. Employers could be the key to opening up the idea of volunteering to people – if they try it once they might just like it and be spurred to carry on and make it part of their lives, just like me. Despite running my own company I volunteer for just half a day a week. I really enjoy it and look forward to it every week.”


For more information or to get support to find volunteering visit www.timebank.org.ukFor media enquiries contact Heidi Budino on heidi@timebank.org.uk or call 0207 785 6388

Notes to Editors

•    TimeBank is a national volunteering charity that supports individuals and businesses to find rewarding volunteering. It also designs its own projects that give volunteers the opportunity to have an impact in the community (www.timebank.org.uk)

•    Registered charity no 1073831

•    TimeBank is a strategic partner of the Office for Civil Society

•    On 11 August 2011 TimeBank surveyed 1,583 people who are registered with them

Other interesting findings were:

•    Training community organisers came top of the list of Big Society plans that appealed the most

•    But out of those (55%) less than half (46%) wanted to be trained as a community organiser themselves

•    Out of those that rated training community organisers as their top Big Society plan (26%) only 20% rated it top choice for them personally

•    When asked what they thought would encourage people to volunteer more less than 10% said support and funding to set up a local project

•    When asked what were the top three things they wanted The Big Society to do for them personally, only 42% said training to be a community organiser and only 33% said support to run their own community project•    This is compared with 73% who said they want volunteering to be made easier and 59% who said get everyone else volunteering

Latest Volunteering Figures (Taken from the National Citizenship Survey 2008-2009 produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government)

•    In 2008-09, 26 per cent of people in England participated in formal volunteering at least once a month - a 1% fall since 2007 and a 3% fall since 2005

•    Thirty-five per cent of people in England participated in informal volunteering at least once a month, no change since 2007 and a fall since 2005

•    The proportion of young people, aged 16 to 25, participating, at least once a month, in formal volunteering was 24 per cent, while 38 per cent took part in informal volunteering at least once a month – no change from 2007

Volunteering Sector Cuts

•    The Office for Civil Society will cut its budget for its strategic partners from £12.2m to £7.5m and the number of the partners from 42 to 15 from March 2011. The maximum level of grant funding to any one partner will be £500,000 a year.

Existing Research

‘Volunteering – The Business Case’ conducted by Corporate Citizenship in May 2010

The research is based on 546 employee volunteers from 16 businesses operating in the City of London who support students and staff in schools and colleges across the UK.

The majority of respondents report that volunteering has developed their skills and competencies across a broad range of business relevant areas and include:

•    Communication skills, including the ability to communicate clearly and concisely with a wide range of people and listen actively

•    Ability to help others, set individual performance goals, coach and counsel, provide training and development and evaluate performance.

•    Adaptability and ability to be effective in different surroundings and with different tasks, responsibilities and people.

•    Influencing and negotiating skills, including persuading others, resolving conflicts and negotiating agreed solutions.